What are WordPress Post Formats, and why should I care?

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(Not just for techies.)

A quick definition of WordPress Post Formats

In a nutshell (and this is taken straight from a most excellent slideshow presentation by Samuel Wood aka Otto), a Post Format in WordPress is a label that can be used by a theme to customize how the theme displays a post.

There’s more to say, of course, but let’s jump to the why you should care part.

Why should you care?

Why you should care about WordPress Post Formats if you blog.

No More Blogger's BlockBlogger’s Block will disappear. Quite simply, you’ll blog more. The more you blog, the better positioned you’ll be to earn more attention, trust, and engagement. And after all, whether you’re blogging for business or blogging for fun, isn’t that why you’re blogging?

No longer paralyzed by the nagging question, Is this idea of mine really blog-worthy, or is it better for Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest or LinkedIn or YouTube or Flickr? you’ll rush to put fingers to keyboard and share your content with your tribe.

Because with nine new Post Formats to choose from (see below), everything from a sharable Web link (which previously you might only have tweeted) to the photo of your newborn granddaughter (which previously you might only have posted to Flickr) to your pithy 50-word reaction to what the Cable News talking head just said (which previously you might only have posted to Facebook) — all of these will work in your Post-Formats-friendly blog theme.

Why you should care about WordPress Post Formats if you read blogs.

You’ll enjoy and get more value from your favorite bloggers’ blogs as they centralize their words of wisdom in one place. You’ll appreciate the one-stop shopping experience.

Why you should care about WordPress Post Formats if you provide content marketing consulting services.

If you’ve read the above two sections, you know the answer.

Why you should care about WordPress Post Formats if you design or customize WordPress themes.

You’ll get more business. Much of it will probably come from existing clients.

Keep in mind that the Post Formats feature was only added to WordPress in February of 2011 (version 3.1). Twenty Eleven was the first WordPress.org theme with native support for Post Formats. (Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.) To be sure, independent theme developers (the savvy ones, anyway) have been building Post Formats support into their themes. But you can bet there are a whole lot of WordPress blogs out there that need people like you to make them Post-Formats-friendly.

Back to "What are Post Formats?"

Again, a Post Format in WordPress is a label that can be used by a theme to customize how the theme displays a post.

Introduced in WordPress 3.1, the Post Formats theme feature allows you to format any given post as any of the following nine Post Formats (scraped from the WordPress Codex):

  • aside – Typically styled without a title. Similar to a Facebook note update.
  • gallery – A gallery of images. Post will likely contain a gallery shortcode and will have image attachments.
  • link – A link to another site. Themes may wish to use the first <a href=””> tag in the post content as the external link for that post. An alternative approach could be if the post consists only of a URL, then that will be the URL and the title (post_title) will be the name attached to the anchor for it.
  • image – A single image. The first <img /> tag in the post could be considered the image. Alternatively, if the post consists only of a URL, that will be the image URL and the title of the post (post_title) will be the title attribute for the image.
  • quote – A quotation. Probably will contain a blockquote holding the quote content. Alternatively, the quote may be just the content, with the source/author being the title.
  • status – A short status update, similar to a Twitter status update.
  • video – A single video. The first <video /> tag or object/embed in the post content could be considered the video. Alternatively, if the post consists only of a URL, that will be the video URL. May also contain the video as an attachment to the post, if video support is enabled on the blog (like via a plugin).
  • audio – An audio file. Could be used for Podcasting.
  • chat – A chat transcript

Post Formats are NOT Post Categories or Post Tags

Unlike Post Categories and Post Tags, both of which are ways to classify posts by topic, Post Formats are topic-apathetic and are designed to be used for formatting and display only.

While it’s true that one could (and still can) use categories and/or tags (and some theme-hacking) to affect the way posts are displayed, such a practice is arguably a bastardization of how categories and tags should be implemented. With the introduction and adoption of Post Formats, we can now have the best of all possible worlds.

In Summary

I hope this article gives you a bit of a framework for understanding what Post Formats are and why you should care.

Stay tuned for more articles about Post Formats, including one that attempts to paint a more vivid picture through the use of a real-world scenario.

Thanks for listening.

As always, I hope you’ll join the discussion.

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About JeffCohan.com

The nSiteful Tech Blog (the official blog of nSiteful Web Builders, Inc. since January of 2013) is where I (Jeff Cohan) and (occasionally) associates will be posting articles of potential interest to like-minded techies, nSiteful clients who are playing active roles in the maintenance of their own Web sites and blogs, and pretty much anyone interested in how Web strategies and tools can help them reach their goals.

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About Jeff Cohan

Jeff and his wife, Margie, are the proud parents of Sarah and Jake. Jeff is the founder, president and chief cook and bottle washer of nSiteful Web Builders, Inc., a Web development and Internet Consulting firm. In his spare time, Jeff builds Web sites and Web applications, plays guitar, putters around in his basement woodworking shop, mercilessly spoils his grandchildren, and creates videos from more than two decades of home movies. His current video project is an extended montage of people (mainly family members) asking him to stop filming them.

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